There is no more comforting level of certainty like being in ideological lockstep with Scott Merkin. I agree with his bold prediction that Jose Quintana will be moved before Spring Training. There are too many interested parties, he checks too many boxes for teams looking to both control costs and add a frontline starter, with too few viable alternatives for his market to fizzle entirely. The Astros, Pirates, or someone else is bound to come around relatively soon.
That said, hearing the Yankees are dropping out because they don’t want to give up “three elite prospects,” calls back old memories of the Sox and their stringent high demands stagnating trade progress (though a quick look at their prospect list shows its benefits, of course). Speculation that the Braves could still be in provides a reminder of the transience of these things, but so far they have traded one of the greatest talents to ever hit the trade market, victimized a desperate Nationals team looking for a consolation prize, and appear to have a good demand for the third super cost-controlled All-Star talent in its prime.
Moves for the guys who are not providing useful value if they are not contributing to a winning White Sox team such as Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera, however, have lacked any real momentum. Nothing has percolated on David Robertson for a while, not that there’s the same rush, and why there isn’t a feeding frenzy for Nate Jones continues to be baffling. The Los Angeles Dodgers, the win-now team most in need of a real second baseman, just had their trade talks for Brian Dozier fall through, which at least provides a theoretical opening for Brett Lawrie, if not one that has his name attached in any meaningful way. It’s more important to max out the returns for their super pieces, but confusing they still have all these players who obviously should be traded.
Just the return on a Quintana trade alone will likely be enough to vault the Sox to having the best farm system in the game, so nitpicking about whether they are approaching moving the smaller bits of their roster aggressively feels a bit silly. But when we’re talking about what kind of homegrown core is needed to build a World Series winner on presumably a $120 million budget three years from now, no prospect buildup is enough.
The common reason to fret about this is the new wave obsession with maximum tanking during a rebuild, and gunning for the No. 1 pick with the cynical force of a thousand suns. My reason for focusing on it probably reads as trivial as quibbling over the expected value of the second pick vs. the first pick: clarity of purpose. Clearing the house quickly eliminates the weirdness of entering the year full of vets who expected to play for a contender, shows the Sox are committed to an extreme, scorched Earth approach that will maximize their efforts, and allows them to use 2017 as an opportunity to try out projects rather than to carry out trade auditions.
But I don’t even waste time writing that paragraph if I’m not a little bored with a quiet January. The market still has left the Sox behind in many real ways. Frazier has not been left out of any run on third baseman, there’s a very real glut of first baseman and designated hitters to suppress Jose Abreu‘s market. Only relievers seem like territory the Sox could be pushing into, and there’s no end in demand for that ever.
To that end, avoiding arbitration with Dan Jennings and Jake Petricka is the actual transactional news of the week. Both could be traded for some sort of lotto ticket if they prove themselves capable in 2017, and both seem like the type of projects who fit within the typical constraints of a rebuild. They’ll also be more interesting to watch than they will have significant effect on building the new core, which is a good preview on how watching the activities of the big league club will be going forward.
Lead Image Credit: Rick Osentoski // USA Today Sports Images